Let's Talk About Ashtanga

Given the glare of glittery marketing and the gruesome nature led classes can take on, it’s no surprise this method gets a bad reputation. From a far glance, I too once wrote it off. So instead, I’m here to make it more human... To share from experience and hopefully shed some light for anyone who is curious.

In brief, a description could be this: Ashtanga is a method that focuses on the individual and traditionally leads to a self-practice and under the guidance of a teacher. Originally taught on a one-to-one basis, the asanas (postures) are given as a "flow" combined with breath and gaze to promote strength and flexibility of mind and body.

Care to learn more? Given our short attention spans, I’ve laid out a few bits here:

Intelligent design: where most misconceptions begin. There’s more to it than a series of postures built through progress. As a road map, it’s an efficient, organized approach to practicing yoga – deleting the need to spend effort “creating a flow”. Flow (read: ease, stability, focus) occurs when an individual utilizes tristana, or the three points – breath, movement, gaze. When the breath comes first, cues are in your face. As one changes so does the practice. It’s never the same. There’s always something to observe, to tweak. So you get to interpret and re-interpret the structure with inquiry, depending on what you need that day.

Self-Practice: equals independence! As a crucial component, this means practitioners maintain a regular practice with or without an instructor present. Gasp, without a voice saying what to do? Yes. The more self-practice happens, the more you are able to trust, listen to the bodies’ cues and notice the psychological/emotional challenges that stand in the way of the process. Ahimsa (non-violence) is learned here. Compassion and honesty are cultivated based on your needs and limitations. You become intimately acquainted with yourself and through this component, discipline is also built.

Parampara: translated in brief as teacher-student relationship or passing on of knowledge. Self-practice and Parampara are not mutually exclusive. In an Ashtanga center, you will see practitioners working through their own practice with an experienced teacher supporting individuals separately. This relationship ensures guidance based on a person’s needs versus a unified response or adjustment for a group. A group who doesn’t have the same bodies, same experiences. This relationship gives you a chance to be supported by someone who hopefully sees you regularly – getting to know you and your quirks overtime.

It wasn’t until six years into practicing yoga that I threw stubbornness to the wind and gave this method a shot. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back. There’s a determination for me that didn’t exist before – to accept where I’m at each day, in the mess of mental chatter and difficulties. It can be funny and sobering simultaneously. Free from fluffy comfort and unnecessary distractions, the upfront approach allows me the chance to lighten up and get straight into the points of why I practice in the first place.

If you’re interested in learning more about this method and trying it for yourself, there are a few instructors in Cairo that can help you do that. Seek them out and see where it takes you. You can also ask any questions here below :)